Neil is passionate about conserving our environment & is committed to increasing protections.
In Parliament, Neil has been Chair of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs Select Committee since 2015. He has led inquiries into plastic waste, the Environment Bill & air quality, campaigning at every stage for stronger environmental protections.
Most recently, Neil's plastics inquiry called on the government to reduce single-use packaging, make recycling simpler & prevent plastic reaching our precious rivers and oceans. He supported the carrier bag charge, ban on microbeads & moves to plant 11 million more trees.
Neil also supports strong action to help tackle climate change, backing renewables, take-up of electric cars and removing coal from energy production.
Improving air quality
Under Neil’s Chairmanship, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee published a report on Air Quality in April 2016. The report called the standard of Britain’s air quality nothing less than a ‘public health emergency’ and called for radical action to tackle the problem.
The measures recommended to Government include:
· New Clean Air Zone Powers For Councils
· Tougher standards on transport emissions
· Support for farmers to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants like ammonia
The report and its recommendations set the benchmark for Neil’s work on air quality.
In addition, under Neil's Chairmanship, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Transport Select Committees, produced a groundbreaking joint air quality report in 2018. It recommended drastic changes in air pollution policy. The conclusions and recommendations of the report can be found here.
Neil has pressed hard for the Government to reduce road transport pollution – principally by incentivising the use of electric cars. He held a Parliamentary debate on electric cars and called for the Government to follow the example of Norway, where 25% of new car registrations are for electric vehicles. Neil made the following recommendations to the Government:
· Rapid AC or DC electric car chargers within an average of 1 mile of every home in Britain – instead of the current 4 miles.
· Proper, generous incentives for electric vehicles – both for business and private ownership - including tax breaks, toll exemptions and access to bus lanes.
· An integrated part of the gov.uk website which shows every electric public charge point in the UK and how many ‘rapid’ charge points are available.
· A statutory obligation for every new petrol station to contain electric car charge points
If we can increase electric car numbers in Britain to Norwegian levels, it would make a massive difference to air quality levels in the hot spots in the inner cities. It is a case Neil will continue to make to the Government and the Department for Transport.
Diesel Scrappage Scheme
In April 2017, Neil led a Parliamentary debate on a Diesel Scrappage Scheme. He called for a targeted and proportionate scheme to encourage drivers to trade in some of the dirtiest diesel engines for cashback on an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle.
The Minister promised to consider the scrappage scheme Neil proposed. In July, the Government went one better and committed to a public consultation on implementing a scrappage scheme.
New Government Air Quality Plan
In July 2017, the Government published its new Air Quality Plan. The plan included:
- £255m to support local authorities prepare their air quality strategies
- A new ‘Clean Air Fund’ to allow councils to start their anti-air pollution measures.
- £100m for retrofitting old buses and new low emissions buses
- Considering changes to the diesel taxation system
- A public consultation on a diesel scrappage scheme
Neil will continue to hold the Government to their air quality promises. Nothing is more important than the air we breathe. Air pollution must be brought within legal limits – as soon as possible.
If Neil is re-elected as an MP and as Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, new air quality plans will be scrutinised fully and it will be ensured the Environment Bill preserves the highest legal protections.